Desert organizers in dues quest

With disputes and policy changes leaving Las Vegas dealers feeling unsettled in their job status, the Transport Workers of America sees an opportunity to expand the union's membership. The union has been striving since a failed campaign in 2001 to effectively organize dealers, and recent missteps and neglect by casino ownership has caused employees to think long and hard about unionizing.

In 2006, Wynn Resorts opted to adopt a controversial policy requiring the shared dealers' tips to include pit bosses in the split. Clearly a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy, the new system brought outrage upon the casino from dealers who did not wish to accept a paycut so that the pit bosses would not have to be paid as much from the billions collected by the house. Legal challenges were raised before the National Labor Relations Board, and the Transport Workers saw a new opportunity.

Despite Steve Wynn's pleas to dealers to trust in him, the hotel's dealers voted to unionize this past May; Caesar's Palace dealers followed suit in December. Negotiations for Wynn have already begun, and start Tuesday for Caesar's.

Now the union has targeted Harrah's Entertanment and MGM Mirage properties. Harrah's has had several of its casinos hold mandatory meetings for employees to push for votes against organizing. MGM responded with a better tactic, boosting hourly pay for its 5100 dealers from an average of $6.33 to $7.75, although the company claimed the adjustment had nothing to do with the union, but rather was to prepare for the hiring and transferring of 1000 dealers when CityCenter opens.

Still, although the raise was a wiser move than threats and intimidation tactics, the union was able to take credit for having forced the pay increases, and went further as to note that tips are the real pay for dealers. Starting Monday, the union will begin an advertising program to educate gamblers about tipping. From websites and billboards to print and live models, the union will help the public understand that tipping is the basis of pay for casino dealers.

While management from the casino chains is clearly unhappy with the prospects of organized employees, it has no one to blame but itself. Las Vegas casinos are gold mines, and greed is unbecoming and unnecessary. If employees are treated properly, the entire organization runs smoother, and customers are happier. The money is there; now a battle will ensue, forcing the owners to pay what they could have given freely, and kept employees as partners in reality as well as name.


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